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December 30/31, 2017

Pastor Ben Adams


All in the Family


Of all the dualistic talk in political campaigns these days, one binary that has been gaining traction over the last decade is that of political insider versus political outsider.

And in a time when the focus of the government activity seems to be more and more out of touch with the actual needs of everyday people, being labeled as a political insider is a detriment to a candidate’s likeability and relatability.

No longer does the insider have an edge with all of their connections and ability to “know how to get things done” but it is now the outsider who has the advantage since they aren't a part of the machine, and they can really shake things up.

Political Outsiders are a gamble because they are unknown, untested, and unproven, but in that same way outsiders are exciting because they are they don't have a political legacy to be scrutinized against and are seemingly free from a commitment to the current insider status quo.

But like any binary, the insider outsider dichotomy is problematic in the way that oversimplifies the complex nature of political relationships, and just because someone hasn't held office doesn't mean that they aren't steeped in the inner circles our government machine. Actually, many of these billionaire “outsider” candidates have amassed their wealth because of their political connections.

So if the line between insiders and outsiders is blurry and messy, what does a true outsider even look like? How can we know?

Well we don't have to look any further than today’s gospel for a story of outsiders, real outsiders, from the farthest margins of society circumcising their son Jesus and presenting him in the temple, offering two turtledoves, the sacrifice designated for the poor.

Then we have Simeon and Anna, outsiders to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, yet despite meeting Jesus for the first time and despite Jesus not doing anything up to this point to merit any of their praise, their words testify to the saving work that Jesus is destined to accomplish.

These impoverished outsiders showing up to the temple and hearing this amazing prophecy from strangers is as New Testament professor Shively Smith says, “a wonderful invitation for our churches to consider the diversity of messages, voices, and locations among us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus as the Christ. The story of Jesus’ birth and early life in Luke makes room for a variety of bodies and proximities to the gospel message. It makes room for women and men. It makes room for youth and elder. It makes room for the poor, disappointed, and unsuspecting.

The good news of Jesus’ birth is that insiders and outsiders of our immediate communities and families can carry the good news of God’s salvation, liberation, acceptance not just to others in the world, but to us as well.”

Maybe you came here today feeling like an outsider, not quite fitting in at work, at school, at church, or even with friends and family who we are likely to spend time with this time of year. If you find yourself feeling like an outsider you're in good company, for our own savior Jesus is our ultimate model outsider who being born into the lowest class of society and being rejected to the point of his death shattered all divisions between rich and poor, worthy and unworthy, insider and outsider, and made us all one family, heirs of God, no longer slaves to divisions and law, but children and children of God no less.

Radical inclusion in the family of God transforms us and the world uniting us with one another and the earth joining the chorus of praise that all creation contributes to. As the psalmist attests, Even the sea monsters, even the snow and frost and stormy wind that we know all too well this time of year, they all fulfill Gods command to praise, not just as an act of thankfulness, but as a liturgical action that theologian Jim Nestigen says, “trues us” aligning our rebellious personal will to the will of God.

We embark on a new year tomorrow, and many people will be setting out to be a new version of them self you know, new year new me, and I love that, there's something so baptismal about our old selves dying and our new selves being born or resurrected in this new year, but maybe we are being invited today to consider an alternative way to enter this new year. Maybe we could enter this new year realigned to who we have been all along as children of God, siblings with one another and all creation in the family of God.

That same infant fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon who declared Jesus to be, “ a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And we follow the example of Anna who praised God and spoke about Jesus to all who are seeking redemption.

So are you in or are you out? Today we are reminded that Christ, even though he was an outsider, abolished any concept of an outsider because with arms outstretched on the cross embraced the all of creation bringing us all into one. This is the true unity that no politician insider or outsider can call for or create because God has already made us one, siblings in God's family and heirs to God's heavenly inheritance. Amen